The U.S. Imperialist
Role in the Destruction of the Sierra Madre Mountains
prominence has been given by the media regarding relief efforts of
military forces after the deluge of November-December 2004 in Eastern
Luzon. As if we owe the U.S. a big debt of gratitude for their
humanitarian efforts. But the truth is that the hidden hands of US
Imperialism are filled with the blood of the victims and all those who
suffered the results of the environmental degradation and imperialist
plunder in the Philippines.
the Philippine Peasant Support Network-USA
Posted by Bulatlat
prominence has been given by the media regarding relief efforts of US
military forces after the deluge of November-December 2004 in Eastern
Luzon. As if we owe the United States a big debt of gratitude for their
truth is that the hidden hands of US Imperialism are filled with the blood
of the victims and all those who suffered the results of the environmental
degradation and imperialist plunder in the Philippines.
outlets trumpet the huge
relief operations, involving two US navy vessels and several US Marine
transport helicopters, supposedly bringing relief to millions of people
affected by four storms that have left 1,800 people dead or missing. The
relief efforts of US military forces was praised for being instrumental in
transporting food and water to the worst-hit and most inaccessible areas
of Infanta, Real and General Nakar towns in Quezon despite the presence of
NPA guerrillas. But no word was said about the United States’ role in the
cause of such a deluge.
In a news briefing with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, officials of
the US task force said their team has so far delivered more than 100,000
tons of relief supplies and would distribute some 200,000 more.
Ricciardone gloats that the US State Department appropriated $7 million
for relief aid, while the US Red Cross contributed $500,000.
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, commanding general of the 3rd Marine
Expeditionary Brigade, said 650
military personnel have been deployed at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay
City for the relief operations. Some 300 more are on board a
ship off the coast of Subic, Zambales. Ten US helicopters and a C-130
cargo plane were being used in the relief operations.
But the United States
authorities were quiet on the involvement of the US authorities in
abetting illegal logging and infrastructure building in Eastern Luzon,
designed for counter-insurgency operations against the NPA. US hidden hand
in the destruction of the Sierra
Madre Mountains must be exposed.
At the height of the
communist insurgency in Cagayan Valley from 1975-80’s, the United States
Agency for International Development (US AID) funded several road projects
to link the coastal areas of Isabela and Aurora to Cagayan Valley.
The proposed road
network was supposed to be constructed from the town of Ilagan to the
Coastal town of Maconacon and Divilican, Isabela and eventually to Palanan,
Isabela. Another parallel road was supposed to be built from Dinapigue,
Isabela to Delasag, Aurora to the other coastal towns of Baler, Aurora to
Mauban, Quezon. These are the most devastated areas that were hit by the
four consecutive storms. Sadly, they will still be the areas that will be
devastated for years to come unless drastic steps are taken to stop legal
or illegal logging.
The proposed road
network also known as the Ilagan to Palanan road gained the moniker the
“million dollars road” or “the million years road” because the
construction and development of the construction was given to the
construction firm of the Warlord Dy family who was then heavily investing
in logging in the area and the nearby provinces. The governor of Isabela
and the head of the Cagayan Valley Development Council (CVDC) was the
despotic warlord, the Governor of Isabela - Faustino Dy Sr.
People knew then that
the road would never be built and that the money for the project would be
used for other purposes. And they were right. The money was used to build
logging roads that the logging companies used to transport logs and
Thus, after more than
ten years, in the 1990’s, the road project was abandoned. The road that
was built and presented to US AID officials was the Ilagan-Bintacan road.
This road leads to the cutting areas around the Divilacan forest. The only
passable roads that were paved with stones were the road from Divilacan to
Maconacon. The roads were built to handle the traffic of heavy equipment
from the cutting area to the two sawmill towns. But the Ilagan to Bintacan
road remained impassable.
The same thing
happened to the road construction from Divilacan to Dinapigue road to
Aurora. The road constructed was from the cutting areas in the forests to
the coastal area where ships going to Japan or to Mauban, Quezon docked.
Mauban town is where logs were cut and processed to be shipped abroad or
to be transported to Manila.
Thus, the US AID
spent precious dollars for the destruction of the forest resources of
Eastern Luzon for the benefit of big logging companies owned by despotic
warlords in Luzon.
At the height of the
US-Aquino regime’s “Total War” campaign against the insurgents in the
Philippines, the US AID, working with the Cagayan Valley Development
Council (CVDC), funded another counter insurgency program called the
“Small and Medium Enterprises Development Projects (SMED).” The SMED
focused on small-scale logging popularly known locally as the “carabao
logging”. This system gave rise to the existence of “baby sawmills”.
“Baby Sawmills” were
different from the big sawmills owned and operated by big logging
corporations. Most of these baby sawmills used small portable sawmills
imported from the United States and provided by US-AID-SMED “Baby
sawmills” were funded by SMED to process lumber processed by “carabao
They processed lumber
according to the specifications of local furniture makers or big sawmill
operators in the major centers of the region or in Metro Manila. They
replaced the traditional big sawmills that were encountering difficulties
due to high costs of operations.
The SMED projects
encouraged small entrepreneurs to invest in furniture making and “carabao
logging”."Carabao logging” or “branches” (from the term branches being cut
by small loggers) is very different from large scale logging.
Large scale logging
or legal logging is a big time operation that involved tens or hundreds of
hauling trucks, fleets of heavy equipment like bulldozers, graders, and
ten-wheeler trucks called Peterbilts used by teams of tree cutters or
cable loggers near the sea logging areas of Isabela and Aurora. The
logging operations also involved companies of private security guards and
battalions of army or local paramilitary auxiliaries called Special
Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units or CAFGUs.
Special CAFGUs were
paramilitary forces deployed in sawmills, logging areas and logging
companies. They are different from the regular CAFGUs that are deployed in
the barrios. The military trained and supervised them but it is the
logging companies that paid them. They were not included in the government
payroll but may be included in the military budget. Their salaries were
remitted to military officials.
“Carabao logging” on
the other hand focused on log-over areas, secondary forests, cutting the
small trees and even saplings and the stumps to be used for furniture and
other wood products. It was called “Carabao logging” because carabaos were
used to haul cut logs, stumps and branches instead of trucks.
chainsaws were sold, leased or rented to peasants and to anyone wanting to
make easy money out of carabao logging. This novel idea saved big loggers
a lot of money. They enlisted an army of carabao loggers to conduct a
sort of “mopping-up” operations in the log-over areas in forests across
Eastern and Western Luzon.
The SMED is also tied
up to the US-Aquino regime’s “Balik-Loob Program” or the Rebel Returnees
Program, which was continued by the succeeding Ramos regime. The SMED
Project was offered as a livelihood project for NPA surrenderees. Even the
military protected “carabao logging” and baby sawmills, owned by local
bureaucrats, producing wood products for bigger sawmills and furniture
dealers in the urban areas.
Millions of pesos
poured into the project. By 1995, environmental activists were having a
hard time explaining to the people the detrimental effects of “carabao
logging”. It was a good source of income for peasants who turned to this
trade because of economic hardships.
The connivance of the
military and the police was confirmed by a Provincial Board Member of
Quezon province, Eladio Pasamba. Pasamba revealed the existence of an
illegal logging syndicate based in Mauban, Quezon to major national
dailies. Pasamba exposed the open secret about the “Mauban Boys” who
regularly haul logs from Northern Luzon passing through the Pacific Ocean.
The illegal cargo
barges were always escorted by military or police forces. After the
successive storms and the public outcry against all forms of logging, the
DENR raided at least six sawmills in Mauban. But Pasamba said, “ there
are still a lot of sawmills and log ponds” in the area. The NPA have
earlier exposed the “Mauban Mafia” way back in 1992 when they started the
logging ban in the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountains.
The NGO’s, the NIPAS and the Token “Green Projects”
The work of anti-logging advocates is made harder by
anticommunist petty-bourgeois hustlers in “NGOs” cashing in on the issue
of ecology. These hustlers pretend to criticize governments and big
business up to a certain point. But they toady up to them directly and to
their conduit private funding agencies to beg for money for their
imaginary or token ecology projects.
As if rubbing salt into pestering wounds, they declared
some parts of Eastern Luzon, especially Palanan, Divilican up to the now
devastated areas of Aurora to Real, Quezon as part of a” National
Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) project.” But in these supposed
protected areas both legal and illegal logging was rampant and the worst
It just proved that their green projects and NIPAS are
both token and imaginary!
Their declaration is a most absurd proposition made by
these imperialist-funded "NGOs". As part of NIPAs, the peasants and
indigenous peoples are kept out of these areas. As a result, extensive
areas of the country are purportedly preserved as national parks under the
pretext of maintaining biodiversity (as if humans are not part of the
They get increasingly large amounts of funds from the
World Bank, the "development" agencies of the imperialist states and the
Philippine reactionary government. They celebrate the announcement of the
U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to channel more money to
"NGOs" such as Plan International in Isabela.
In the end, the
United States can no longer wash its dirty and bloodied hands for its
complicity in the catastrophic effects of its counter-insurgency
policies. It abetted both legal and illegal logging resulting in the
deaths of thousands of people and affected the lives of more than thirteen
million people in the Philippines. Posted by Bulatlat
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